Administration combats widespread vape and drug problem at Lewis-Palmer

This teenager is using an e-cigarette, or vape, which has become a common issue at Lewis-Palmer High School.

This teenager is using an e-cigarette, or vape, which has become a common issue at Lewis-Palmer High School.

Jakob Aggers and Mekhi Ozuna

To vape is to “inhale vapor through the mouth from a usually battery-operated electronic device (such as an electronic cigarette) that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid,” according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary. Various electronic devices may be classified as “a vape” such as juuls, sourins, e-cigarettes, or vuse vibes.

As the year progresses, these vapes seem to scourge the student body at Lewis-Palmer as numerous people become addicted to these increasingly popular outlets for common teenage problems. The administration recognizes this modern-age predicament and analyzes the causes and possible solutions for it.

“Vaping has become a big issue, especially this year. I guess it’s because people don’t look at it in the same way as they do with more serious drugs. But they need to realize that it’s still going to have the same punishments,” Frank Pauciello, who is a security officer at Lewis-Palmer, said.

Recently, Pauciello and the rest of the security staff has conducted many drug dog searches in the school in order to combat the growing popularity of vape and widespread general drug use at Lewis-Palmer.

“I think the drug searches are very effective, especially if we do them randomly. I’ve spent plenty of time with those dogs, and they’re pretty darn good,” Pauciello said. “Those dogs can even sniff out trace substances of drugs; and once they’ve allerted the security, its up to us to find the drug.”

In contrast to the opinions of the security staff, many students believe that the searches are very unsuccessful and a waste of time and money. They question the ability of the dogs and the effect of wrongfully accusing certain students.

“They’re kinda ridiculous in the sense that they bring in dogs that don’t even work. There’s kids who have stuff in their bags and they don’t get caught,” Justin Pennell 10 said. “Then they embarrass a kid who literally did nothing wrong. Even if they did have something, the security still embarrasses them in front of the whole class.”

Additionally, students believe that the money for drug searches could be put to other use within the school. Many clubs and sports could benefit from the extra money that is currently being used for drug dog programs.

“Drug searches are insanely expensive and I think that’s ridiculous. I do know that the football players are complaining about how old their gear is and how they could use new gear,” Pennell said. “I know there’s a bunch of departments that could use the money and it could improve the school’s atmosphere. Instead of just using that money to bust kids with juuls.”  

Aside from traditional drug searches that are characterized by the utilization of dogs, the security at Lewis-Palmer has conducted smaller, unpremeditated searches. Due to an excessive amount of students skipping class to vape in the bathrooms, administrators have began conducting random bathroom checks.

“Some kids have gotten into a bad habit and some kids are vaping in the bathrooms during class. We’re doing a lot of no-notice searches where we walk around the school and pop in the bathrooms to see if anyone is in there vaping,” Pauciello said. “We just try to be unpredictable.”

Despite the recent drug search efforts, many believe that the drug problem at Lewis-Palmer can never be truly fixed. Students suspect that even with these searches, people will continue to bring illegal substances into school.

“I don’t like the drug searches and I think it’s actually kinda messed up that they do it. Even if we spent more money on drug searches, it’s not going to change anything. Kids are going to do drugs anyway,” Jack Sheffield 11 said.

This leads to the question of why teenagers are so susceptible to certain drugs. Many times, drugs problems can lead from social complications such as peer pressure or family conflicts.

“I know a lot of kids that do it as a social thing. I also know a couple kids who do it as a way to escape from their lives,” Alex Allen 10 said. “Some have parental issues at home, others have different issues that they don’t know how to deal with. And so they turn to drugs.”

Sean Hannon, the head wrestling coach at Lewis-Palmer, dealt with various drugs problems on the wrestling team this season. He thinks that the solution to the drug problems at the school lies within the student body itself.

“I think there are individuals that need to start coming out and saying that what you are doing is stupid. If you look at what vaping is, it’s dumb. If the people who are leaders in our school stepped up, and if the culture around it was that vaping should be frowned upon and then that would create a change,” Hannon said. “If people start to think that someone who does drugs lets their teammates down, then things will change. But teachers and adults aren’t gonna do anything unless the kids step up.”

As far as vaping and drugs in general go, the overall sentiment at Lewis-Palmer is split. Some believe that it is an inordinate problem that needs immediate attention, while others believe that student’s personal lives should not be dictated by school administration. Looking forward, the outcome of the drug issue in Lewis-Palmer is yet to be determined and lies solely in the hands of the student body.